Posts filed under ‘white bathrobes’
Breakfast consisted of oatmeal and sour milk, sometimes I was given a thin pancake with cheese. Every day I ate potatoes mashed with water, no butter or salt, boiled chicken or pork unseasoned, bland soup with beets and carrots, a baked apple, weak black tea. My friend snuck me in a box of chocolate truffles when she visited. At night I’d take one piece from the box hid in the table next to my hospital bed underneath pieces of paper; emails from friends and family promising their prayers, fact sheets and information about Down syndrome. I licked my fingers clean.
I walked down to the water cooler to fill up my bucket. I’d walk slowly, peeking into other rooms, watching moms coo at their healthy newborns, bouquets of bright vibrant flowers in glass vases in the corner. Some mothers were watching television, passing time until they would pack up to go home.
Several times a day an orderly came to my room asking if I needed any fresh towels or a new bathrobe. I was disoriented, unsure, I could not understand what she was saying. I’d nod and go back to what I was doing. Piles of towels and bathrobes were stacked in the corner of my room.
My green threaded incision started to heal and my daughter struggled in her incubator. She still could not breath on her own, therefore could not be held. I resigned myself to sit next to her, my hand resting on her heel.
A few months after Zoya’s birth I remember waiting in my car in line at a gas station. An old man with a red baseball cap was in front of me, pumping gas in his rusty blue truck. Assumingly he had children, which meant that at one point ihe and his wife had a newborn. That day I sat and watched the old gentlemen, amazed that he had made it through the very difficult task of sustaining a life. Something so daunting to me at the time.
I ate, I walked, I sat by my new baby daughter, Polina, and I examined her. Sergei and I took turns. “Does she have Down syndrome? She doesn’t, does she? Wait, her eyes do slant a little bit. But she doesn’t have a single crease in the palm or her hand? She’s long, but her neck is a little thick.”
The fifth day after Polly’s birth I decided to take a walk outside. Tentatively, I stepped out of my pajamas and tenderly pulled up my maternity jeans and a black t-shirt. My mom and I moved slowly gazing up at the green trees, the large white hospital ominous in the background. People walked down the street, on their way to work or to see a friend, an umbrella tucked under someone’s arm because there was a chance of rain. I saw a mother step out into the sun, she looked on as her husband scrambled around her; baby in car seat put gingerly down at her feet, race to the car and slowly bring it up to the waiting new family. I watched all three settle into their car and drive off to their life. There I stood, in limbo, my arms empty, my middle aching. A new mom, but not really.
I felt guilty that I wasn’t there more often. I was not the vigilant mom I imagined I would have been in those circumstances. Whatever energy I had built up dissolved quickly while standing. No one offered me a chair. My husband finally brought me a chair on the fifth day of our stay.
I was sore and weak but the real reason why I didn’t stay long with my baby was because of my own self pity and fear. When I was there, I sat despondently beside my lifeless new born, feeling sorry for myself, almost embarrassed. I did not see her. I saw a sick, possibly defective baby. A baby the doctors insisted was mine. But I wasn’t so sure that she was the same little one who had prodded my tummy and kicked at my bladder all those months. There was no familiarity.
I imagined the nurses looking at me, nudging each other that this was the mom of the sick baby. I imagined half of them feeling sorry for me and the other half confused as to why I didn’t just abandon her.
No one in the nursery met my gaze. Most greeted me curtly first thing in the morning and then looked through me during the remainder of their shifts. After moving from surgery to post partum, I experienced the first of many hurtful words from the nursing staff.
“That’s what you get for thinking that you could have three normal children.”
In Ukraine, it is very common to have just one child. Two children is a large family. According to this nurse, having a third was just asking for trouble.
I sat in the nursery and watched the healthy babies through the window. It made me sad. Other post partum moms waddled in and out in their white terry cloth robes to take or deliver their babies. They looked tired, sore, flushed. But they looked happy. Chunky pink babies swaddled in gauzy blankets slept dreamily. Others thrashed and screamed for food. About four feet away, they were a world away from me. More then a window separated us.
J and her husband and L arrived within the hour.
They were upbeat, commenting on the private hospital’s nice rooms, shyly cracking jokes, squinting at me through the room’s bright lights. All three tried to act like it was the most natural thing in the world to be hanging out in a Ukrainian hospital room at one in the morning.
I loved them for it.
The smiling doctor with the thick gold necklace was found and L told him we needed a Cesarean section right away. He was unsure of the soft spoken American woman. Once again he said we should wait and see if the IV helped. But L persisted, looking to my husband for linguistic assistance and nodding incessantly as words poured out of her mouth in a mixture of English and Russian. Her face was stern and her words were pleading. Eventually the smiling doctor agreed to take a closer look at the baby.
I found myself waddling towards the ultrasound room, a white bath robe tied loosely around my expansive middle, my black slippers swishing down the hall.
Everything happened quickly once the baby’s extreme distress was proved on the ultrasound machine. An anesthesiologist was shaken out of her sleep and on her way to the hospital. The smiling doctor hurried off to prepare for surgery. The pediatrician on call put on her scrubs, elastic snapping over her shoes.
Back in my room ready for surgery, I perched on the end of my high hospital bed and looked around at the warm tan walls. A wooden desk and a matching chair stood against the wall in front of me. I watched my feet dangle above the cold white tile floor. They seemed separate from my body. I wandered where they were taking me and if I even wanted to go.
I thought about Elaina and Zoya sleeping in their Estonian made bunk-beds at home. Sergei and I had searched all over Kiev before purchasing the pale colored wooden beds. Thick cotton blankets pulled up tightly to the girls’ chins, in an attempt to keep the frosty night air that lingered inside our old apartment at bay. Their Babushka slept in the room next to them ready if needed for a drink of water or a trip to the bathroom. My little girls, unaware that in about a half hour their baby sister would be here.
Heavy footsteps came down the hall and I saw my smiling doctor who wanted to learn English poke his head in the door of my room.
I nodded that I was ready and suddenly two other men were at my side helping me down from the high hospital bed and on to a cold gurney with a thin white sheet. I settled and my husband came close to me. He covered my hands with his and prayed for God’s protection, for our child’s health and for a peace in my heart that would surpass my understanding. When he finished his prayer he looked at me and smiled. “She’s coming tonight!”
The orderlies wheeled my gurney down the hall with my husband walking next to us. Our friends set up shop in the waiting room. They didn’t want Sergei to wait alone and J wanted to be there to take a picture of all three of us together when the surgery was over.
I cannot find my white, terry cloth bathrobe. S got if for me years ago. There have been days I lived in that bathrobe. I’ve worn it in Michigan, Ukraine, Illinois. Somehow, in this last move, I lost it. Only a few items have moved with me so many times. The bathrobe is not really white anymore…wherever it is. It is a bit yellow, but still soft, the belt wraps around my middle tightly, oh, I remember the length, just above my knee. The sleeves are just right.
Too bad I am not still in the hospital with Polly in Ukraine. It was more like a western hotel. A woman came to my room every morning and evening to clean. And there was a lady whose sole purpose in her work was to ensure that the patients had fresh bathrobes. I tell you, I have not received that kind of service before or since. One day I had four “fresh robes” because everytime the lady came in to ask, I forgot the word for “robe” in Russian. And, in having no idea what she was talking about, I just politely answered “Da.”
Wow, almost two years later, I actually found something I miss about spending twenty days in the hospital with Polly.
Oh, and is it terry cloth, terry-cloth, or terrycloth? They all came up fine on spell-check.